Preparing for a PGCE History

At the time of writing this I am about 3 months away from starting a PGCE History SCITT (that’s ‘School Centred Initial Teacher Training’ for the uninitiated). I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been doing over the last six months, or so, to prepare for the course. I thought it might be useful for others who are thinking about teaching, or those who like me, find themselves in an in between phase waiting to start their course. Please do share any things you’ve been doing to prepare or hints and tips in the comments below. 

Lesson Observations

Obviously time in school is the best prep as being in school is the end goal, so getting comfortable in the classroom environment and spending time observing teaching (and getting involved) is essential. Once I got a place on the course the top prep I’ve done is carry on visiting the school I am doing my SCITT with.  I’ve taken days off work here and there to go in and I’ve found that it has kept up my enthusiasm for teaching. It’s also helped to make me less nervous about starting.


I have tried to familiarise myself with the national curriculum and identify any gaps in my knowledge. I did start very methodically looking at the curriculum and working my way through, but in the end I’ve just tried to read up on a range of subjects (more about that below). I have also been doing some reading around behaviour management which I’ve found very helpful. There are loads of books on this but a few I can recommend are:

  • Paul Dix, When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: Seismic shifts in school behaviour (2017)
  • Phil Beadle, How to Teach (2010)
  • Rob Plevin, Classroom Management Success in 7 days or less: The Ultra-Effective Classroom Management System for Teachers (2017)

The Historical Association website also has lots of useful stuff. In particular I’ve found the pages with collections of features from their publication Teaching History are handy (see below). I’ve found the problem page for history mentors is useful as you can learn about mistakes that other trainees have made, and see what advice was given to improve.

I have compiled a list of useful links for history teachers elsewhere on this blog see here.


I have continued to create blog posts (even if I haven’t finished them all) as its something I enjoy. I feel that researching things I’m interested in now, will give me lots of little nuggets for my future teaching career.


Save, Save, Save

I have saved anything that would be of use for my subject knowledge, future lessons etc in nicely organised folders on the cloud. I currently work for a university so you know I’ve been scouring module spaces for info. I have used PCloud for a while as I like to have a separate area that’s just for PGCE related stuff rather than our family cloud etc. It works for me and there’s 10gb of free space which has been plenty so far (or click here to try premium free for 1 month) Other cloud services are available 😀


Subject knowledge journal

As you will have already gathered there is no Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course being offered for prospective history teachers (in 2019 – this may change). So instead I’ve tried to do my own SKE (of sorts)  in the form of subject knowledge specific journal based around the national curriculum. I may do a flip through of this on Vimeo at some point. I am into bullet journalling for my own personal organisation and I thought that I could try and apply the same principle to create a history specific journal. I hoped that it would strengthen my knowledge, help me to familiarise myself with the curriculum and provide notes to refer to in future. So far I’ve only managed to do some notes on the Normans and the Crusades but its been fun, I can always add to it and I think it will be useful to look back on. 


Further on the subject of subject knowledge BBC Bitesize is useful for an overview of topics, there’s a lot on the curriculum and it’s difficult to know where to start. As mentioned earlier I started at the top of the list and worked my way down as I wanted a refresher on everything. However in the end I have dipped in and out, just reading what I find interesting and bearing in mind how it relates to the curriculum. I’m not talking about reading heavy tomes either, I have dipped into the BBC history website as there are lots of interesting articles on there. I still work full time so they’re handy to read at work on my break. I’ve also found Bitesize helps to bring me back to basics, when you’ve been used to learning at a much higher level during an UG or MA degree you need to get scale things back a bit. GCSE students will not be going into the depth that you did during degree modules or dissertations. Working in a university I can also lurk on module spaces and get some subject knowledge that way, not everyone has this opportunity. If you’re still at uni you have an opportunity to download lots of resources, I wish that I’d saved more so I could revisit them now. Also bear in mind you have gained so much knowledge even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. If you did A Level history I guess it couldn’t hurt to dig out those old notes – if you still have them. Anything to jog your memory, its all in there! 


Doing an online course

I really recommend doing some kind of a course, just for fun, in an area you’d like to know more about. I’ve been doing a course on Future Learn and its been great, just an easy no pressure snippet of learning. I went for England in the time of King Richard III by University of Leicester. If you haven’t heard of Future Learn its a site that offers various courses from universities which are completely  free to complete, if you pay you can get a certificate if you want to, I haven’t bothered with that though. Another site which offers free courses is Open Culture.


Watching TV

Yes I have on occasion been kicking back with BBC Iplayer watching Dr Thomas Asbridge go through The Crusades. Its just another way to get back into subjects that you may not have previously managed to give your attentions to.


Listening to podcasts

There are so many platforms to listen to podcasts but personally I use Acast. I found the TES podcast really handy for preparing for interviews to keep abreast of current educational issues.  There are some GCSE revision podcasts, which have helped me understand the level students are aiming for and the BBC History Extra is another good one. Sometimes its just nice to digest things in a different way.


Practising voice control

This might not be a concern for everyone but I just don’t have to talk much in my current role and personally feel that I could do with strengthening my voice. I have checked out a couple of YouTube videos on how to do this but I’m yet to find a non embarrassing place to practice (I live in a terraced house).


One last thing…

I had my course induction recently and the day included some tips from current trainees, one that stuck with me and *should* be easy to do was simply ENJOY YOUR SUMMER! I will get on that right away.


🐦Follow me on Twitter @emhistblog🐦

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